Nelson Mandela has canceled his visit to the University scheduled for February 25, officials announced Thursday.
The former South African president had been slated to deliver an address in Jadwin Gym and receive an honorary degree from the University recognizing his many contributions to humanity.
Mandela was forced to call off his entire tour of the United States that included a visit to the University because of continuing international obligations, according to a statement from President Shapiro.
Mandela will be traveling to the Middle East and west Africa during the time he was scheduled to visit Princeton, according to University spokesman Justin Harmon '78.
African studies program director Jeffrey Herbst said Mandela holds a critical position as the official mediator for negotiations in Burundi, a nation in central Africa. "Burundi has been a site of mass violence between the Hutus and the Tutsis since its independence in the 1960s," Herbst said, adding that the country is "teetering on the edge" of warfare.
Harmon said the University had always been aware of the possibility of cancellation. "It's a risk you take when you invite a world leader like Mandela," he said. "We knew all along there was a possibility he might not be able to follow through with his plans."
Ann Halliday, special assistant to the president, said the University can still derive benefits from the extensive planning that went into the event. "Whenever we plan for an event of this size, we get a much better sense of how to plan for similar events in the future," she said.
USG president PJ Kim '01, who helped organize a ticket distribution program for the event, expressed disappointment at the cancellation. "I'm not upset because of all the work, but more disappointed that no one will be able to see him," Kim said. "Everyone would gladly do the work all over again."
Though Mandela's speech and the ceremony to honor him have been canceled, Halliday said all other programs associated with Mandela's visit still will take place. These events include an African-American art exhibit at the University's art museum, film series in the residential colleges, several related lectures and a Web-based course on Mandela and South Africa taught by Herbst.
In two one-hour lectures, Herbst said he will discuss Mandela's role in the anti-apartheid struggle and review his five years as president of a newly democratic South Africa.
Though Shapiro said he was disappointed about the cancellation, he noted that the reasons the University wanted to honor Mandela are the very reasons that now prevent his visit.
"We wish him every success as he continues to provide leadership and mediation in his unparalleled and unceasing commitment to peace, justice and equality in South Africa and throughout the world," Shapiro said.